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21.12.2020 Libya

US charges Libyan 'bombmaker' over 1988 Lockerbie attack

By AFP
US Attorney General Bill Barr said a former Libyan intelligence operative helped build the explosive device that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.  By MICHAEL REYNOLDS (POOL/AFP)
LISTEN DEC 21, 2020
US Attorney General Bill Barr said a former Libyan intelligence operative helped build the explosive device that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. By MICHAEL REYNOLDS (POOL/AFP)

The US Justice Department announced charges Monday against a Libyan former intelligence agent who allegedly built the bomb that exploded aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland exactly 32 years ago.

Attorney General Bill Barr said that "Abu Agela Mas'ud Kheir Al-Marimi" helped build the device that blew up the aircraft -- killing 259 people including 190 Americans aboard the US-bound flight, and 11 people on the ground.

The man, more widely known as Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, is currently being held by the Libyan government, Barr told a press conference, voicing confidence he would be handed over to the United States for trial.

"At long last, this man responsible for killing Americans and many others, will be subject to justice for his crimes," Barr told said in a press conference.

US and Scottish investigators have been building a case for years against Masud, alleged to have been a top bombmaker for the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

The announcement came on the anniversary of the December 21, 1988 bombing, which shattered the aircraft while it flew at 31,000 feet, headed for New York, and spread debris over a wide area for Scotland, with the largest pieces falling onto Lockerbie.

The scene of devastation caused by the 1988 Lockerbie attack.  By ROY LETKEY (AFP/File) The scene of devastation caused by the 1988 Lockerbie attack. By ROY LETKEY (AFP/File)

Two Libyans were put on trial in the Netherlands for their alleged roles in the attack and one of them, Abdelbaset Mohmet Al-Megrahi, was convicted in 2001.

Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, was sentenced to life in prison but was released in 2009 and died in 2012.

His family has lodged a posthumous appeal in Scotland against his conviction, claiming he was innocent.

"The Lockerbie bombing remains the deadliest single terrorist attack in the history of the United Kingdom, and the second deadliest terrorist attack in American history," Barr said.

"Let there be no mistake. No amount of time or distance will stop the United States and our Scottish partners from pursuing justice in this case."

Speaking on behalf of family members of those killed aboard the flight, Kara Weipz -- whose brother died aboard Pan Am Flight 103 -- said their continued push to find the culprits behind the bombing had been vindicated.

"Our patience and persistence has proved fruitful with this decision today," said Weipz.

"The motto of the family members over the past 32 years has been, the truth must be known," she said.

Barr said the prospect of obtaining custody of Masud from the Libyan authorities is "very good."

"Masud is in the custody of the current government of Libya and we have no reason to think that that government is interested in associating itself with this heinous act of terrorism," he said.

"And so we are optimistic that they will turn him over to face justice."

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